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Architecture (MA)

Lola Tartakover

Lola Tartakover is an architectural designer based in London whose work has a research-based approach with an emphasis on model-making and art practices. During her time at the RCA, Lola has engaged with entangled territories, decolonial discourse, and low-tech design methods, being awarded the Technical Studies prize for her first-year project. Lola’s thesis project encapsulates her design practice; the use of democratic procurement systems and the creation of wide-spreading impacts.

Prior to joining the RCA, Lola worked at SimpsonHaugh to implement urban program through the design of high-rise structures, and also in Malaysia at a social enterprise architecture practice. She collaborated and led projects to support indigenous communities and conserve ecology, using local materials and pioneering construction. Lola created a winning competition project for off-grid housing in Los Angeles, she has undertaken a research project for cyclone-proof architecture and was involved in organising a sustainable student design competition.

Lola completed her undergraduate degree at the Manchester School of Architecture. Her final project was nominated for the RIBA precedents medal and the Shephard Robson Jicwood Prize, along with awards for her model making.

Process model

A city is often described as a collection of gated environments, a multitude of fences with different thicknesses and porosities. These defensive city barriers are filter mechanisms between an ‘outside’ and an ‘inside’ but their role extends much further than their physical presence, they activate a sense of otherness within society. Nowhere is this more evident than in North Kensington, a place that possesses the most and least deprived communities in the country in close proximity to one another. The ‘inside’ is becoming day-by-day penetrable by fewer people on fewer occasions. 

‘Being Safe is Scary’ explores the possibility of subverting the barriers connotations of control, to foreground the entanglement of North Kensington in privatisation and racial capitalism. This project has been led by a multi-media dialogue with residents, an untangling of local bylaws, and a forensic examination of the barrier adaptations present in the area, aiming to work at the pace of the people and go against the top-down development imposed by the local authority.  

Through the design of three community self-build interventions, built from torn-down barriers, political support is provided and the breaking of bylaws is facilitated. Could an adaptation of barriers in North Kensington lead to new forms of democratic self-governance, redistribute power and support the ideologies of the residents?

Urban regeneration post-WW2 created the North Kensington that we see today, imposing housing estates and the pervasive Westway flyover, against the will of the residents. This regeneration replicated colonial spatial divisions by relegating migrant groups to less desirable locations and exploiting valuable land for commercial development. Still today, social and racial othering is reinforced by the barriers.
Community consultation
The research method for this project involved engaging in a multi-media dialogue with North Kensington residents and local stakeholders. This was informed by the ad-hoc barrier modifications which are being seen in the area, especially after Grenfell as a way to deal with trauma and reclaim agency. The dialogue included a survey and a guerilla art display along with design responses.
Graffiti in North Kensington
Barrier Appropriation in North KensingtonThe barriers are a physical manifestation of a hostile relationship between the council and the residents. They become a forum where residents are exposing the councils’ opaqueness and inaction, and asking for community ownership and inclusion in the jurisdiction.
Leaflet created to socialise an objective of community legislative engagement in North KensingtonI spent time bringing to the surface the many regulations which are excluding the public from urban decision-making and hindering spontaneous and community use of public land. An example of this is shown in the leaflet, the London open space bylaws prohibit gymnastics, playing musical instruments, climbing fences and holding public meetings.
Three risographs
Inspiration for a design language is taken from the graphic style of the area’s graffiti, opposing the rigidity of the barriers and creating a counter-aesthetics. The colours green and pink are prominent in the street murals synonymous with the area’s identity, including pink as a symbol of protest for marginalised communities.
The Sites of the Three InterventionsThis project resists over-regulation and disenfranchisement through three community self-build interventions that challenge the council, sitting either side of the Westway Flyover. They merge two types of functions, one being the formation of a community political support system and the other facilitating so-called unruly activities prohibited in London’s open spaces.
PLanometric and technical construction drawings
The Ends Office: Planometric View and Community Self-build Technical Construction The Ends office provides a centre for mediating resident-council conflicts and facilitating shared decision-making. To address residents’ reluctance to engage with council-run spaces, I have designed a neutral ground to allow council members to meet residents on their own terms. It creates a single point of contact for local authorities, reducing communication gaps between local players.
The Ends Office: Assembly Hall and Meeting Spaces
The Ends Office - Assembly HallThe space additionally functions to encourage gymnastics and play, with furniture carved into levels for clambering and allowing voices to be un-hierarchical during meetings. All the designs contain load-bearing walls with lightweight roofs, simplifying construction for the community by minimizing components.
The Ends Office - Meeting SpacesThrough observing daily events on the site proposed for the office, a location was identified where chance neighbourly encounters occur. My design formalises this location to allow for longer conversations within spaces of varying intimacies.
Procurement Timeline of the Three Interventions The residents construct the interventions using torn-down fences and material scraps found in the neighbourhood. Metal fences are melted and shaped to become ornamental features, brick walls are crushed and covered in mesh to become solid features and cardboard is soaked and pressed into bricks. The interventions are realised through a resident-led collective enfranchisement process, involving the creation of a property management company and a neighbourhood development order.
Planometric views of the ends workshop and library, and construction drawing of the library
The Ends Workshop and Library: Planometric View and Community Self-build Technical ConstructionThe second intervention sits above and below the Westway Flyover on an unused outcrop which resulted from successful community opposition in the 70s. The library (first floor) memorialises this location by offering accessible legal documents, legal advice and vital workspaces to address legislative disengagement and foster community action.
Render of the ends workshop
The Ends WorkshopBelow the library, the building becomes a prohibited musical instrument, using active noise cancellation to counter the sounds from the road above and beckon visitors. This space is a construction workshop which processes materials for the three interventions.
Sand, sandbags, moss and vegetation are used to mitigate road noise and pollution.
Model of kinetic sound wall
Kinetic Sound Wall (aluminium and mesh) A 1:1 mock-up of the kinetic sound walls featured within the workshop design.
The Debating Chamber: Planometric View and Community Self-build Technical Construction
The Debating Chamber: Planometric View and Community Self-build Technical ConstructionThe third site holds a debating chamber where local stakeholders can exchange knowledge, disavowing the law which prohibits public speeches. The space is designed to bring a softness to the busy street through sand-covered floors and inflated PVC elements.
Render of debating chamber
The Debating Chamber
The Debating Chamber
Cardboard Bricks 1:1 mock-up experiment of the cardboard brick structure which encloses the debating chamber.
Model of the ends office
The Ends Office: Meeting Spaces
Model of the ends office
The Ends Office: Assembly Hall
Model of the ends office
The Ends Office: Assembly Hall